Andrew McMahon piano/vocals
Josh Partington guitar
William Tell guitar
Brian Ireland drums
The sophomore effort. It's a crossroad
in the lifespan of nearly every band and let's
be honest not always the kindest fork in the
road. The sophomore effort is what separates artists
from one-hit wonders, careers from brief flirtations
with the music industry, and often times, men from
boys. For SoCal introspective rock quintet Something
Corporate, it just so happens to be all three.
But the similarities between Something
Corporate and the sophomore successes of their peers
end there. It's said that you have a lifetime to write
your first record and a mere six months to scribble
out your second usually on the road. As a result,
many sophomore efforts involve a bevy of songs complaining
about becoming the very thing the artist always wanted
to be: A rock star on the road, missing home, their
girlfriends, their favorite Laz-Z-Boy chairs. Boring.
On North, the band's follow-up to
their 2002 Drive-Thru/MCA Records debut, Leaving Through
the Window a 250,000 seller based largely on
relentless touring and word of mouth Something
Corporate bucks that idea in favor of a more cerebral
concept: Simply being away.
"It has a lot to do with the
effect of being away from people and situations in
life that you've never been away from and how being
that far away can make you isolate yourself further,"
explains singer/songwriter Andrew McMahon. "As
a result, it's a much more serious and moodier record."
Where Leaving Through the Window
could be considered the band's summer album, recorded
amongst friends in Santa Monica, Calif., peppered
with boy-wants-girl/boy-gets-girl/boy-loses-girl tales
of carefree adolescence, North is it's polar opposite.
The band immersed themselves in Seattle's Robert Lang
Studios over a two-month period in May and June, away
from hometown distractions, away from the fun and
sun of Southern California, away from everything,
essentially. "I think I left the studio three
or four times and it was to go to the bank to make
sure I had enough money to eat that week," says
McMahon. "The whole idea was just to completely
avoid anything but the record."
The results of self-imposed isolation
from everything besides their collective musical vision
are stunning. North is a more coherent record than
its predecessor is; a more focused affair crafted
around emotive, heartfelt lyrics and earnest musicianship
that weave a lucid texture through each track. To
create the latter, the band pulled the plug on most
"Rather than employing cheap
production tricks to give the record more body, we
wanted to do that only musically -- only though our
parts and only though development of the band as opposed
to development of production," says McMahon.
"Its not that we wanted to make it sound like
a White Stripes record or anything like that, but
we wanted to make it sound really rich without having
to employ techniques like guitar doubling and vocal
doubling and all those things that you hear as a typical
staple of modern bands."
To create the former, songwriters
McMahon and guitarist Josh Partington locked themselves
away in a room and made sure they met eye to eye on
where the songs that would eventually make up North
were headed. "We wanted it to include the different
facets of our band but, at the same time, really showcase
some sort of growth from the last album," says
That lyrical growth is immediately
evident on North, with such somber tales as "Only
Ashes" and "Me and the Moon" clearly
coming from a much darker place than high school bullies
and punk rock princesses. A dark tale of freedom at
the ultimate price, "Me and the Moon" paints
a chilling reality right from its opening line; "It's
a good year for a murder
"It's about this woman who
kills her husband after many years of noot being fulfilled
in her relationship and not being where she wants
to be in life," says McMahon. "She is targeting
this man as the reason why she didnt become
the things she thought she would be when she was young."
On "Only Ashes" -- whose
tsunami-sized guitar riff is probably the hardest
lick the band has recorded to date a tale of
introspection turns to contempt over an expansive
rock track. "It's all about frustration and how
it seems like sometimes the worse things that can
happen to you, you end up doing to yourself,"
explains Partington. "It's probably the most
personal song I have ever written. It's my favorite
on this album just because of that. I felt it was
the first time I was ever completely honest in what
I was trying to say. I didnt leave out anything."
Partington also penned the album's
lead single, the anthem "Space," which features
the band's trademark piano feeding off a sprawling
guitar riff. "There is nothing more frustrating
then having somebody love you more than life itself
but can't necessarily even come close to grasping
what you are all about at times," says Partington
of the song's theme. The track, along with the gorgeous
"Break Myself," best sums up the personal
demons North is attempting to expel. "To me,
'Break Myself' is all about total desperation,"
says McMahon. "Just being in that place where
you can't do anything to help anyone. What do you
do when you're so far away from somebody who needs
you and you want to be there but you cant?
That's not to say North is a downer
quite the contrary. Something Corporate has
simply trimmed the fat this time out and, essentially,
matured as songwriters. The result is a work of startling
beauty a portrait of life set to a soundtrack
of furiously catchy urban hymns.
"It's not that we didnt
want to have pop sensibilities within it but we just
didnt want North to be this happy pop album,
says Partington. "We just felt that wasn't the
direction we were going as songwriters. We felt we
needed to write an album that's a little bit more
serious. I think the last record was more about us
trying to find a voice. Now we found that voice and
this is what it sounds like when we use it."